Working as an Executive Chef

An Executive Chef is the final voice in a restaurant kitchen. The position holds great responsibility, creativity and management skills, as well as culinary creativity. You will need a sensitive palate, the ability to be a team player and willingness to work hard. Nearly all successful Executive Chefs have a passion for food and flavors.

Facts about Executive Chefs

  • They are responsible for the safety and efficiency of their kitchen.
  • They must maintain the highest level of hygiene and food quality in their facility.
  • They must work their way up to the position, regardless of their educational training.
  • They work long hours during the peak of the lunch and dinner hours often pushing late into the night.

Typical Tasks of the Executive Chef

In the kitchen, Executive Chefs are responsible for creating the menus, ensuring the quality of the food, hiring staff, scheduling staff, monitoring food service for quality and timeliness and delegating tasks to staff members.

The Executive Chef is also in charge of ordering food and kitchen supplies, and performing administrative duties or delegating some of those tasks to capable staff members. Ultimately, the Executive Chef must answer to the restaurant owner or owners on the quality, profitability and overall success of the establishment. Executive Chefs can manage:

  • resort restaurants,
  • hotel restaurants,
  • casino restaurants,
  • stand-alone restaurants,
  • chain restaurants and
  • cruise ships.

Education/Experience Needed to be an Executive Chef

While some Executive Chefs start at the bottom of the restaurant hierarchy and work their way up to an executive position, most require formal culinary training also. You can start with local cooking classes at trade schools or junior colleges and then progress onto a fully accredited culinary school.

Most colleges, universities and cooking institutes will require a high school diploma but college courses or a degree are rarely required for culinary institutes or culinary arts schools. If you're planning on becoming a top level Executive Chef, you'll benefit for attending and completely a full culinary arts program. You'll learn the basics of safety, cleanliness, food preparation and specialties like French cuisine or specific ethic techniques. 

Salary Expectations for Executive Chefs

Starting salaries for Executive Chefs can start as low as $30,000 and range up to $60,000, depending upon the size of the restaurant they are working for and the number of years of experience they have. However, salaries in the $90,000 range and higher are possible with 20 or more years of experience and a track record for success.

The Future of Executive Chef Careers

The food-industry and restaurant business is booming and expected to continue increasing. Cooking career opportunities will continue to increase as new restaurants continue to open and the need for staff increases. However, the top jobs in the industry are the Executive Chef positions so the competition is high and will continue to be. With more and more of a focus turning to healthy eating and natural food choices, Executive Chefs with skills and creativity in those areas will be in highest demand.